AWARENESS OF TEACHING AIDS ACCORDING TO SPECIFIC DISABILITY
DR. NASIR SULMAN
Department of Special Education, University of Karachi
Special education is the education of students with special needs in a way that addresses the students’ individual differences and needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to help learners with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and community than would be available if the student were only given access to a typical classroom education.
Common special needs include challenges with learning, communication challenges, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders. Students with these kinds of special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, or resource room.
Special education teachers use various techniques to promote learning. Depending on the disability, teaching methods can include individualized instruction, problem-solving assignments, and small group work. When students need special accommodations in order to take a test, special education teachers see that appropriate ones are provided, such as having the questions read orally or lengthening the time allowed to take the test. Special education teachers help to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each special education student. The IEP sets personalized goals for each student and is tailored to the student’s individual needs and ability. Teachers work closely with parents to inform them of their child’s progress and suggest techniques to promote learning at home. They are involved in the students’ behavioral, social, and academic development, helping the students develop emotionally, feel comfortable in social situations, and be aware of socially acceptable behavior. Special education teachers communicate and work together with parents, social workers, school psychologists, speech therapists, occupational and physical therapists, school administrators, and other teachers.
Educators specializing in Special Education use varied techniques to help promote learning. While each child and their disability is different there are standard methods that can aid both the student and the teacher. Some of the most common of these are individualized instruction, problem solving assignments and working in small groups. If a student needs special accommodations to take a test, special education teachers provide the appropriate assistance, such as extending the time needed to take the test or reading the questions aloud. Special education instructors help to organize an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student. The IEP sets goals geared specifically for each student’s needs and ability.
In most developed countries, educators are modifying teaching methods and environments so that the maximum number of students is served in general education environments. Special education in developed countries is often regarded less as a “place” and more as “a range of services, available in every school.” Integration can reduce social stigmas and improve academic achievement for many students.
The opposite of special education is general education. General education is the standard curriculum presented with standard teaching methods and without additional supports. Curriculum is the totality of experience attained by the student in the classroom, playground, laboratory, etc. Curriculum meant for non-disabled children should be followed in the education of disabled children without major omissions. In case of MR children, age appropriate need-based functional activities (skills) should be the operational curriculum. Research studies indicate that 80-85 per cent of the general curriculum could be duplicated for disabled children. The rest can also be provided through modified and substituted experiences.
In order to perform well in curricular aspects, disabled children should learn `plus curricular’ activities, as the correlation between general and `plus curricular’ activities is positive and high. The efficiency in `plus curricular’ activities must be emphasized for disabled children and use of devices is one of the important `plus curricular activities’.
What is a teaching aid?
A technological teaching aid is an assistive technology used by the school resource team in normal classroom activities to address a precise and identified need of one or several student(s) with special needs. This tool is mainly used by school resource teams in order to simplify or perform a task related to their teaching or to any other pedagogical activity with the students. This tool may benefit all the students in the class, but it is specifically designed to adequately address the specific needs of one or several student(s) who have handicaps, learning disabilities or school maladjustments. Teaching aids must help the acquisition of certain competencies or address certain learning needs of these students who would be hard, or impossible, to reach without them.
A teaching aid, representing equity and equality of opportunity, must be seen as a supporting tool for the success of the student with special needs. Note that the use of technological teaching aids by the resource team is not meant to favor the student with special needs compared to students of the same age or classmates. It is meant to ‘normalize’ the student’s situation compared to the situation of his/her fellow students.
A teaching aid must be used as a tool of pedagogical differentiation so that the student with special needs can acquire competencies, as well as more autonomy and involvement in his/her communication and in his/her learning process. Technological aids must enable students to play an active role in tasks related to planning, organizing, creating, producing and sharing information.
Some of the aids and appliances for each category of disability are briefly described as follows:
1. AIDS FOR VISUAL DISABILITY
(i) Braille: Braille is considered to be a typewriter mostly used by the teacher of visually impaired children to prepare day-to-day text materials for them to study. Due to its cost, it is considered to be difficult to provide braillers to all visually impaired children in developing countries. However, children of higher classes can be given training in using a brailler.
(ii) Braille slate: Braille slate is a frame used for visually impaired children for writing Braille. In this system, the child has to punch the dots from right to left with the use of stylus and then the paper is reversed and read by the child
(iii) Thermoform machine: Thermoform machine is equipment used for getting embossed upward impression of tactile material. A special sheet called thermoform sheet is used for embossing tactile diagrams. This machine is useful and cost-effective for taking less number of copies. However, it becomes expensive to use thermoform machine when more copies (beyond 30) of braille text materials are needed. The thermoform sheet is reusable and, therefore, the used textbooks by visually impaired children can be collected for re-distribution.
(iv) Geometry kits: Mathematics, particularly Geometry, is considered to be difficult for visually impaired children because more abstract information is provided. The Geometry kit specially designed for visually impaired children enables them to understand the geometrical ideas clearly. Therefore, Geometry kits become vital in learning mathematics. In fact, the regular geometric kit can also be adapted by inserting tactile holes for marking the inches, centimetres, etc. However, too much of minute information should be avoided in the tactile material.
(v) Low vision kits: For every totally blind child, there are a number of low vision children. The main problem of low vision children is in making decisions on whether they need print or Braille. Therefore, assessment procedures are vital to find out the visual efficiency of low vision children. The low vision assessment kit normally includes materials to assess concepts like visual closure, form constancy, visual background, colour preference, etc.
(vi) Abacus: Abacus is a device used by visually impaired children for learning mathematics. It is operated through beads. Learning through abacus becomes very effective when the visually impaired child knows how to use mathematics textbooks and also the mathematical Braille codes.
(vii) Tape recorders: Any audio material that is presented to visually impaired children is found to supplement their learning. Therefore, tape recorders play a vital role in the education of children with disabilities. In fact, visually impaired children like tape recorders and audio-cassettes (talking books) at the time of examination to revise the text quickly. So, visually impaired children must be trained to use tape recorders for their learning.
(viii)Taylor frame: Taylor frame is another mathematical device. Visually impaired children use Taylor frame to solve mathematical problems. Though the Taylor frame enables the child to get a full view of what is being done by him, the use of pegs made out of lead seems to be hazardous to the health of the child. Both Abacus and Taylor frame can be used by visually impaired children for solving problems in mathematics. The devices listed above are commonly used by visually impaired children in their educational programmes.
(ix)Computers: Computers can help visually impaired children to a large extent. Computer can be used for low vision assessment too. They can also be helpful for providing secretarial type of training for visually impaired children with the help of software such as JAWS (Job Access With Speech).
(x) Voice synthesizers: Many things which were considered to be impossible in the past have become possible today with the advent of computers and technology. Voice Synthesizers provide auto feedback to visually impaired children and, therefore, they will be able to learn at their own pace. There are so many software programmes which help visually impaired individuals to perform well.
. AIDS FOR HEARING DISABILITY
(i) Audiometer: Audiometer is equipment used for assessing the hearing ability of the child. The audiogram provides information on hearing made through air conduction and bone conduction tests. Audiogram report is vital for making appropriate placement of the child in educational programmes.
(ii) Speech trainer: Many hearing impaired children have ability to speak. Therefore, individual speech trainer is normally used to develop their abilities in speaking. Every programme dealing with hearing impairment is expected to have a speech trainer.
(iii) Hearing aids: Hearing aids are vital tools for enhancing the residual hearing of children with hearing impairment. There are different types of hearing impairments. As soon as the speech training is provided, the child must be given hearing aid to practise speech. But just providing a hearing aid is not helpful to the child. The child needs assistance in using the aid. Sometimes children do not use hearing aids because of the noise disturbances that prevail in the environment. Therefore, effective use of hearing aids depends on the nature of environment too.
(iv) Hearing aid test box: Hearing aids often go out of order or there may be some difficulties in the amplification process. Therefore, there is a need for testing the quality of the hearing aid and the amplification process so as to make appropriate use of the hearing aid. The hearing aid test box is necessary in programmes dealing with hearing impaired children and there must be a trained person to attend to the minor repairs in hearing aids.
(v) Assessment tests: Though hearing impaired children present the same type of mental disposition when compared to persons with hearing, it is essential to assess their language abilities, information processing abilities, etc. Therefore, appropriate tests relevant for the assessment need to be made available in educational programmes.
(vi) Group hearing aids: Hearing impaired children need training in speech. A teacher cannot provide speech training individually as it consumes a lot of time. Therefore, it is suggested to have group hearing aids through which the teacher produces sounds and words and the children hear the same through amplification devices and respond back to the teacher. In language preparation classes, group hearing aids find a prominent place.
(vii) Toys for playing: Toys are mostly used for the concept development of children with hearing impairment. As they are devoid of their hearing skills, picture cards, written words, etc., are normally used to develop such concepts in them. Therefore, adequate toys have to be kept in a learning centre for hearing impaired children.
(viii) Model of ear: It is essential for the hearing impaired child to know how the ear functions and what can go wrong in the ear. Therefore, a model of the ear can be kept in the resource room or in the school to help the child to understand the hearing process.
(ix) Computers: Computers serve as effective learning aids in the case of children with hearing impairment. Many hearing impaired children are successful computer operators, programmers, etc. Therefore, it is advisable to teach computer skills to these children. As is evident, some devices listed above are teaching-learning devices whereas some are used in assessment. Though all devices need not be present in a school environment, it is imperative for teachers to know that such devices are used in the education of children with hearing impairment.
AIDS FOR MENTAL RETARDATION
The following aids and equipment are useful in the education of children with mental retardation. The child’s abstract thinking is shallow and hence he/she should be taught with real objects. (For example, a real ladder may be used to teach that rather than using a diagram of a ladder).
(i) Psychological tests: As mentally retarded children are cognitively impaired, assessment of information processing, intelligence, concept development, etc., is vital for their educational intervention. Therefore, psychological tests have to be made available for assessing mentally retarded children. Though, specific assessment test are not available in India, many adapted versions of the tests used for non-disabled children are enabling teachers in the assessment of mentally retarded children. These tests should be standard intelligence tests as recommended by WHO norms.
(ii) Play therapy set, Montessori teaching set, Kindergarten set : A number of concept development activities can be taught to children with mental retardation through toys, games, building blocks, etc. Therefore, basic Kindergarten teaching aids, Montessori teaching aids, etc. may be made available in programmes for mentally retarded children.
(iii) Television and VCR: Any kind of visual information that is presented to children with mental retardation is vital for their effective learning. Therefore, television and VCR are important for providing visual oriented information to such children. In addition to this, the child’s image may also be shown to him/her through TV in order to change certain mannerisms.
(iv) Toys: Toys are important tools for learning of any child and it is more so in the case of children with mental retardation. In fact, written information should be less in the case of mentally retarded children and more toys should be used since they lack in basic cognitive skills.
(v) Thematic charts: Since children with mental retardation learn one at a time, elaborate and vivid descriptions are needed for each and every concept. Therefore, it is essential to provide a number of charts explaining different themes and learning tasks to children with mental retardation.
(vi) Computers: Computers can serve as interactive tools for mentally retarded children. Since the child can study at its own pace, computers have advantage as instructional devices.
Mentally retarded children need more concrete, preferably life experiences and, therefore, tactile aids are important to provide supportive educational experiences to them.
4. AIDS FOR LOCOMOTOR DISABILITY
Unlike children with other disability areas, locomotor disabled children are neither cognitively impaired nor sensorily impaired. Some of the following adaptations are required for their effective mainstreaming:
(i) Specialized furniture: In the case of children with locomotor disability, accessibility is the main issue. Some times accessibility may be in terms of ramps, elevators, etc., whereas on some other occasions, the accessibility may be in terms of appropriate furniture. For example, for a child with cerebral palsy or a person with a wheel chair, the table may be mounted in such a way that the wheel chair can get inside so that the child may be in a position to sit comfortably. Such modified furniture is necessary for the effective functioning of the child.
(ii) Mobility aids : There are a number of mobility aids such as calipers, orthotic aids, prosthetic aids, wheel chairs, splints, etc., which contribute to the independence of persons with locomotor disabilities. Therefore, a programme dealing with these children should have adequate supply of these devices for their effective participation in education and rehabilitation programmes.
(iii) Orthotic and prosthetic aids: Orthosis is a mechanical device, which is fitted to any part of the body with the object keeping that part in the maximum possible anatomical and functional position. The different types of orthosis are : HKAFO, KAFO and AFO. These orthosis are fitted to the patients depending upon their conditions and according to the doctor’s prescription. Prosthesis is to replace the lost part of the body. The different types of prosthesis are: above-knee, below-knee, Syme’s above-elbow and below-elbow prosthesis.
(iv) Balancing bars: There are different environmental demands of persons with locomotor disability. In some cases, the locomotor-disabled person requires hand rails and balancing bars for walking. Therefore, such accessibility aids have to be made available in programmes dealing with these children.
(v) Full-length mirrors: Posture becomes a pertinent issue in the rehabilitation of children with locomotor disability. Therefore, full-length mirrors are essential in the classroom of children with locomotor disability to create awareness on their own physical posture.
(vi) Parallel bars: Any person who is given orthotic or prosthetic aid needs practice for improving the physical posture and gait. Therefore, parallel bars at the knee or thigh level are important for the child to practise walking.
(vii) Computers: Many persons with locomotor disability, including those with spasticity, are good in handling computers. Therefore, it is essential to provide computer training to persons with locomotor impairment with a view to developing their job potential.
(viii) Television and VCR: Like any other disability, children with locomotor disabilities too need to learn through multi-sensory approaches. As TV and VCR facilitate interactive mode of learning, it is essential to have such items in their learning environment.
As is evident from the list, many devices cutting across disabilities are useful for effective teaching. Though not mandatory, learning the use of these devices by regular classroom teachers would certainly reduce discrimination and facilitate inclusion of children with disabilities in the mainstream.